"I thought you had put this madness behind you, Johun," Farfalla said with a disappointed shake of his head.
"It s not madness" Johun insisted. "He was there, Master. He saw it with his own eyes!"
Farfalla sighed and got up from his seat and began to pace, making small tight circles over the carpet of his private quarters. Johun remained in his seat, focusing on staying calm and letting his arguments be guided by logic and reason.
"How did Hoth deal with your headstrong ways?" Valenthyne asked, stopping to throw up his hands in exasperation.
"Your personalities are quite different," Johun remarked. "Hoth often accused me of being too passive."
Farfalla shook his head again and returned to his seat.
"Are you certain this witness is reliable?" he asked, alluding to the mercenaries Johun had wanted to bring forward ten years before.
Johun nodded. "All the details of his story check out. He calls himself Darovit now, but back then he was known as Tomcat. Records confirm he was recruited on Somov Rit by Torr Snapit, and he came with his cousins to join the Army of Light"
"And one of these cousins is the girl he claims took his hand?"
"A girl ten years ago," Johun noted. "She'd be a woman now. The cousin's name was Rain. She was lost in an attack by the Sith shortly after they landed on Ruusan. She was missing and presumed dead, but she must have been found by the this Lord Bane and taken as his apprentice."
"I've heard that name before" Farfalla admitted, leaning back in his chair. "It was mentioned in some of the statements given by Sith minions we took as prisoners. If I remember correctly, he was one of the last of the Sith to join the Brotherhood."
Johun nodded. "Darovit said the same thing. He said Bane was always reluctant to follow Kaan. If he refused to join the rest of the Brotherhood in the cave, that would explain how he survived the thought bomb!"
"It's possible," Farfalla admitted. "But how did Darovit recognize Bane?"
"He defected to the Sith near the end of the war." Farfalla threw his hands up again. "A defector, Johun? A traitor to the Jedi? The Council will never believe this!"
"That is what makes his story even more believable," Johun countered. "If he was lying he could easily have found some reason to explain how he recognized Lord Bane. But he has freely admitted his crime to me because he has decided the time has come to speak the truth."
"And why is that?" Farfalla wanted to know. "Your report said he has lived as a healer on Ruusan for the past decade. Why did he suddenly decide to come forward now?"
"When I spoke with him on Ruusan I convinced him of the dangers the Sith represent. He wants to stop Bane before another war begins."
Farfalla raised an eyebrow. "You convinced him? After a decade of silence, one meeting with you and he is ready to come forward? How, exactly, did you achieve that?"
"I didn't use the Force to do it" Johun protested. "Not exactly. I didn't use the Force to compel him. I just made him more willing to listen to me."
"You are making this very difficult for me," Valenthyne said, reaching up with one hand to rub at his temple.
"I only ask that you speak with him yourself, Master," Johun implored. "Hear what he has to say. Listen to him, and then decide if you will bring him before the Council."
"Very well, Johun," Farfalla said, nodding. "I will meet with him. Where is he now?"
"He wanted to learn more about the healing arts of our Order," Johun explained. "Master Barra gave him access to the Archives."
Valenthyne slapped his hands on his thighs and rose to his feet. "Then I suggest we go find him before I come to my senses."
* * *
The general collection of the Jedi Archives was arranged in four long halls built off a massive central rotunda. Each hall contained a wide primary aisle, with hundreds of smaller secondary aisles leading off either side. Lining the walls of the secondary aisles were the stacks: trillions of datatapes and datacards arranged under millions of categories, topics, and subtopics. Access to the disks of a particular hall could be gained via any of the terminals built along the center of its main aisle. Each terminal was equipped with a master index to help those seeking knowledge on a particular subject to find the proper hall, but to make things easier each hall also represented a specific, though very broad, branch of knowledge.
The first hall, the one all visitors passed through when they entered the Archives from the Jedi Temple, contained works of philosophy and historical records. Included in its stacks were the personal journals of Jedi, political leaders, and individuals of historical significance. Basic treatises examining the Force were also filed in this section, though Padawans were restricted from accessing many of these works lest they misinterpret the knowledge and become corrupted.
The second hall contained works dedicated to the mathematical and engineering sciences, including theories of space-time and hy-perdrive construction, floor plans of official government buildings, and detailed design blueprints of every vehicle, weapon, or gadget ever made. The third focused on the geography and culture of the millions of known planets in the galaxy. Maps, both planetary and interstellar, as well as detailed descriptions of every recorded civilization, past and present dominated the stacks of the third hall.
However, it was the fourth hall where Zannah-still in the guise of Nalia-was headed. The fourth hall contained zoological data and research on virtually all known life-forms of the galaxy. This was her third day in the archives, and she had yet to find what she was looking for. The preloaded works on the datacard given to her by the chief librarian had helped to narrow her search, but locating a specific piece of information in an infinite ocean of knowledge was no simple task.
Had she gone back to Master Barra, or approached any of the analysis droids roaming the Archives, and asked for information on orbalisks rather than the more general topic of parasitic organisms, she might have made quicker progress. But, this would have conflicted with her cover story and raised unwanted questions. So Zannah had been forced to seek out the information using only the skills she had developed while studying various works during her apprenticeship under Darth Bane.
Her efforts had quickly brought to light several thousand articles and experiments that made at least some reference to orbalisks, but she had yet to find any mention of how to remove them without killing the host. She knew she was running out of time, but as she made her way down the first hall toward the rotunda, she was determined to find what she had come for.
There were always a number of other scholars in the Archives, but the primary aisles of each hall were wide, and the stacks were so numerous and deep that Zannah never felt crowded. This allowed her to work without fear of anyone accidentally discovering what she was investigating. However, she still felt a flash of apprehension whenever another of the Archive patrons passed her by, always worried that her projected aura of light-side power would falter.
She nodded at one of the analysis droids as she entered the central rotunda and turned to her right, heading for the fourth hall. She passed by the bronzium busts honoring powerful and memorable members from the Order's history. She paused as she often did in front of the busts of the Lost: the only twelve individuals who had willingly set aside the vows they had sworn upon becoming Jedi Knights and chosen to leave the Order.
The Lost served as a reminder to the Jedi that, despite their wisdom and talents in the Force, they were not infallible. The Jedi viewed each of the Lost as a failure of their Order, not as a failure of the individual. A plaque on each bust recounted the individual's history of service, praising what he or she had achieved and contributed before departing from the Jedi ranks. Curiously, though, none of the plaques offered a reason for leaving.
Zannah shook her head and continued. As a Sith, she couldn't imagine any reason to honor someone who abandoned her cause... though with only one Master and one apprentice, the Sith had been transformed into something very different from the Jedi Order and its vast numbers.
She made her way down the fourth hall, heading for the privacy of the last viewing terminal in the central aisle. She inserted the personal datacard Master Barra had given her to gain access to the Archive catalogs, and then resumed her search where she had left off the day before.
Gathering a list of index numbers, she typed in a passcode to lock her terminal from other users, then wandered off into the stacks to retrieve the half a dozen datacards she wanted to study in further detail. By necessity the datacards in the Archives were nearly twice the size of her personal datacard; each one contained the full text of hundreds-if not thousands-of different titles.
For five long hours she continued her research without a break. Time and time again she brought datacards back to the terminal and scoured their contents, only to find that they offered nothing new. Frustrated, she would eject the cards and compile a new list of possible sources, then return to the stacks to switch the old datacards for those promising better results.
It was the rumbling in her stomach that told her it was time to take a break. If she became distracted-too tired or too hungry-her spell might falter, exposing Zannah's true nature to those around her. It had happened once before, on the first day when she pushed herself too hard and worked long into the night. It had lasted only an instant, a momentary lapse, but that could have been enough to doom her. Fortunately, at that late hour the Archives had been mostly deserted, and nobody had been close enough to notice the Sith in their midst. Since then, however, Zannah had been much more careful.
There was one last datacard to check; then she would head down to the cafeteria and return once she had sated her hunger. She popped it into the terminal and quickly scanned the contents. When she found what she was looking for, she tapped a key; a block of text from an academic paper popped up onto the screen.
AN EXAMINATION AND EXPLORATION OF A MOST DANGEROUS AND RESILIENT ORGANISM by Dr. Osaf Hamud
"In my years of study I have encountered a number of life-forms that subsist primarily through symbiotic relationships established with other species. Some of these relationships are commensalist, in which neither species is significantly affected by the presence of the other. Others are mutualistic, enabling both species to benefit from their shared existence. And still others are parasitic, in which the host organism suffers while the symbiont thrives.
Of course, to properly classify any symbiotic relationship into one of these three categories, we must first explicitly define the meaning of words such as harmful or beneficial, a task that many have regarded as..."
Zannah blinked twice to clear away the stupor settling in. The Archives' general collection included everything from explorer's journals that were as exciting to browse as any well-written piece of fiction, to academic papers so dry and boring they would test the limits of a Jedi Master's patience. Apparently the works of Dr. Osaf Hamud fell into the latter category.
For a brief instant she considered simply popping the datacard out and going in search of a meal, but then made a quick search for orbalisk instead. A dozen pages scrolled by on the viewer as it skipped to the relevant section.
". . . called orbalisks by the local Nikto populace. One warrior recounted how he had been infested for nearly a full year before ridding himself of the creatures because they so disfigured him that he could not find a mate.
This returns us to our earlier dilemma of how to define harmful and beneficial. Revisiting the previous discussion, we must now include capacity to find a mate in our discussions...
Zannah pulled her eyes back up to the top of the screen.
... one warrior recounted how he had been infested for nearly a full year before ridding himself of the creatures ...
In desperation she typed in a new phrase, then hit SEARCH again.
It is a fact generally assumed by most zoologists that orbalisks cannot be removed without killing the host. However, my research has revealed that an infested host can be cured, though the process is both dangerous and extremely complicated, as I will detail here.
First, the host must be in excellent health. As one might expect, the very definition of excellent and even health must be expounded upon..."
She had found it. She had found it! Zannah leapt to her feet, pumping a clenched fist in a quiet victory celebration, barely able to contain a fierce shout of triumph. And in her moment of elation, the spell concealing her true identity slipped.
Zannah quickly regained control, glancing to her left and right to see if anyone had noticed. Heart pounding, she slammed the personal datacard Master Barra had given her into the terminal to copy over the orbalisk article.
Behind her a voice said, "Rain? What are you doing here?"
* * *
Darovit wandered along the wide aisle of the Jedi Archives' fourth hall, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of knowledge in the stacks.
He had briefly tried looking for information on the native flora and fauna of Ruusan, hoping to broaden his knowledge so he could better help those who came to him for aid. He was used to a simpler world, however, and found the technology of the Archives daunting. An analysis droid had explained how to use the search and retrieval systems to find information in the stacks, but his brisk tutorial had left Darovit even more confused than before.
Other scholars were there, and he could have approached one of them to ask for help. But as a man who valued his own privacy, he was loath to interrupt theirs. Ultimately, he had simply started to wander up and down the aisle, waiting for Johun to return.
Darovit was beginning to regret his decision to come to Corus-cant. He had let himself get swept up in the moment by the Jedi Knight, the thoughts of stopping another war with the Sith appealing to the romantic ideals that had first led him to Ruusan as a teenager. But those were the dreams of a child; he was older and wiser now.
The Jedi moved through a world that was not his own. The concerns of an entire galaxy weighed upon their shoulders; their decisions affected trillions of lives. Darovit didn't want that kind of responsibility. Surrounded by the grandeur and glory of the Archives, all he wanted was to return to his simple hut in the forest.
Unfortunately, that might no longer be an option. He was here now, and Johun seemed determined to have him speak before the Jedi Council.
To take his mind off his plight, he began to study the other scholars. They were all Jedi: Padawans and Masters, young and old, human and otherwise. He noticed an attractive young woman with long, dark hair staring intently at her viewscreen, chewing on her lip as she delved into some work of academia.
There was something familiar about her, though Darovit was sure he had never met her before. Over the past decade he hadn't met anyone except those few individuals who sought him out in his hut, and the woman certainly didn't look like she had come from the farms or villages of Ruusan.
He crept toward her, not wishing to interrupt her studies but trying to figure out if he knew her. For several minutes he watched her; she was obviously frustrated, unable to find what she was looking for in the datacards. Suddenly she leapt up, clenching her fist victoriously, and Darovit felt a familiar presence wash over him.
For the first ten years of his life, that presence had been at his side constantly. As children, they had shared a bond that went beyond being cousins-they were as close as brother and sister. And though the figure before him had black, not blond, hair, there was no doubt in Darovit's mind who she was.
"Rain?" he called softly, so as not to startle her. "What are you doing here?"
The woman spun to face him, her eyes wide. She stared at him blankly, unable to recognize the man she had last seen as a boy ten years before. Then her eyes dropped to the stump of his right hand, and her jaw fell agape.
He nodded, then added. "It's Darovit now. But sometimes I think
I still like Tomcat better."
"You're a Jedi now?" she said, confused by his presence in the
"No," he answered quickly, unwilling to be mistaken for something he was not. "I stayed on Ruusan after ... after this." He held up his stump. "I became a healer."
"What are you doing here?"
"I came to..." He stopped midsentence, suddenly realizing the danger Rain was in. The danger he had brought upon her.
"Rain, we have to get out of here! The Jedi are looking for you!"
"Tomcat, what are you talking about?"
"A Jedi came to Ruusan. I told him about you and Bane. That's why they brought me here!"
The young woman's eyes glowed with pure hatred and anger, and for a second Darovit thought she was going to kill him in the middle of the Jedi Archives.
"How much do they know?" she demanded. "Tell me everything you told them!"
"Rain, there isn't time," he protested. "I'm just waiting here for them to come get me. They could be here any minute. You have to get out of here or they'll find you!"
She turned and punched a key on the terminal; a small datacard popped out. She snatched it up and stuffed it beneath her clothes. Then she grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him back down the aisle toward the central rotunda. She moved as quickly as she could without drawing attention, her pace something between a brisk walk and a run.
Darovit made no move to resist, though he did ask, "Where are we going?"
"Tython " she whispered. "I have to warn my Master.1'
They reached the rotunda, but instead of turning down the first hall and heading toward the exit, she led him into the third hall.
"What are you doing, Rain?" Darovit asked, his voice rising slightly. "We have to get going!"
One of the other scholars-an older woman with coppery red hair sitting at a nearby terminal-turned to stare at them, her attention drawn by Darovit's exclamations.
"Quiet, Tomcat," Rain shushed him, nodding apologetically in the woman's direction. "You're disturbing the other patrons."
The old woman turned back to her viewscreen, dismissing them. Darovit's companion gave his arm a rough shake.
"I'm sorry" he whispered, just loud enough for her to hear. "But you have to get out of here. Leave for Tython before they find you here."
"I don't know where Tython is" she snapped back through clenched teeth. "We need to find a hyperspace route."
Taking the terminal one down from the red-haired old woman, Rain punched a series of buttons. A second later the screen came to life with a list of reference numbers.
"Got it," she said, shoving Darovit into the seat by the terminal's viewscreen. "Wait here."
She disappeared into the stacks, moving with the same half-walking, half-running stride. As Darovit waited for her to return, it occurred to him that his loyalties had suddenly shifted. He had been lured to Coruscant with the notion of helping the Jedi wipe out the Sith and prevent a war. But the abstract concept of widespread galactic suffering meant little when he had come face-to-face with his childhood friend. Now all he could think about was what would happen to Rain if she was caught, and he realized he was willing to do whatever it took to keep her safe.
Less than a minute later she returned and slapped a datacard into the terminal. Leaning across Darovit, who was still seated in the chair, she tapped away at the controls until an image of a cloud-covered world appeared on the screen.
"I need to copy this," she said, pulling out the datacard she had been using when he first saw her and jamming it into another slot on the terminal.
"Why not just take the original?" Darovit asked.
"Sensors on the Archive doors," she explained. "Removing an original will set off alarms."
The terminal beeped and the datacard popped out, the copying complete. Zannah stuffed it into her robes, then hauled Darovit up by his elbow.
"Let's go. Before your friends show up."
Not bothering to return the original back to the stacks, she half-led, half-pulled him away from the terminal. She whisked him to the rotunda, then down the main aisle of the first hall and out the exit, leaving the Archives behind them.